Yet Another Lesson About Dealing with Your Parents

This month, the Lady of the Manners is going to go over a topic she’s *sure* she’s talked about in the past, but has been receiving quite the flurry of mail about, mostly from her younger readers. Such heartfelt letters that the Lady of the Manners must address the question again, because she really does want to help those younger readers free themselves from turmoil and worry.

What is the burning issue these younger Goths are troubled over? Some of them are trying to deal with the harsh burden of parental disapproval, poor dears. “My parents won’t let me be a Goth!” they cry. The Lady of the Manners feels for them, she really does.

One suggestion the Lady of the Manners has for these fledgling Goths (The Lady of the Manners is going to try very hard not to refer to them as ‘baby bats’ or ‘babygoths’, since she has also gotten mail asking that she not do that any more) is entirely dependant on how well they think they can keep their temper. Why? Because the Lady of the Manners is going to suggest something shocking and novel; talking to your parents. (Of course, if your yearnings to be a Goth stems from wanting to annoy your parents, get a reaction from them, and look as shocking as possible, then the Lady of the Manners really can’t help you.)
Yes, talk to your parents. Ask them *why* they’re opposed to your being a Goth. Do they think it’s a cult? (It’s not.) Do they think it will lead you to becoming a Satanist? (It probably won’t.) Do they object to you ‘dressing funny’, or are worried about any negative attention your attire might subject you to?

The last is a valid concern, actually. Yes, the Lady of the Manners goes on and on and on about this, but it’s true. Dressing differently from others will cause people to single you out, make comments, and perhaps give you less-than-pleasant attention. This is where you need to keep your temper. If you can calmly explain to your parents that you are aware of all that, but that you promise to be polite and courteous when dealing with negative attention, you might be able to allay their fears about it.

One tactic that worked for the Lady of the Manners when she was a fledgling Person In Black was promising to get good grades, in return for leniency about her clothing choices. Getting straight As meant the Lady of the Manners was allowed to dye her hair an unnatural color or buy a pair of pointy-toe buckle boots. Good grades can be a powerful bargaining tool with parents, if you can follow through on your half of the deal.

Another suggestion is to point out to your parents how much money could potentially be saved if they let you pick out clothes you like at the local thrift stores. Of course, you will have more success with this plea if you keep your fashion choices to the slightly more formal side of the Gothic look, as opposed to corsets, PVC, and bondage-themed jewelry. Most parents are perfectly willing to call all black clothing “respectable”, as long as it looks tidy and well pulled together.

Another reason to talk to your parents is to find out what misconceptions they might have about Goth. Oftentimes, your parents are saying “no” because they believe the rather inaccurate and sensational things the media has to say about the Gothic subculture. Admittedly, finding information on Goth that doesn’t make us all out to be morbid, depressed, death-obsessed psychos is a bit difficult. Try and stress the historical and literary roots of the Gothic subculture; also use parent-friendly examples such as Edward Gorey, Tim Burton movies, and the Addams Family. (If the Lady of the Manners might indulge in a brief moment of shameless self-promotion, show your parents the Gothic Charm School website and encourage them to read it. The Lady of the Manners has gotten a fair amount of letters from parents, most of which thank the Lady of the Manners for ‘explaining this whole Goth thing’ in a way that reassures them.)

But what if you’ve tried all these tactics, and your parents still say no? The Lady of the Manners hates to break it to you, but at that point you’re out of luck. As galling as it may seem, if you’re living at home, you have to abide by your parents’ rules. Yes, you could sneak your gothy clothes and makeup to school with you, change there, and change back before heading home, but then you run the risk of your parents catching you and reading you the riot act or worse. The Lady of the Manners personally wouldn’t recommend such a course of action, but knows people who did so with success when they were fledgling Goths.

While the Lady of the Manners is sure that all of the younger readers who wrote to her about this were hoping for advice other than ‘talk to your parents’, but she really does believe that is the best possible thing to do. You never know, the mere act of talking to them about your interests might reassure them enough to stop them from freaking out at you quite as much.

With that, the Lady of the Manners is going to go off and call her own parents, who have always been amazingly tolerant of her eccentric wardrobe and lifestyle, and never once thought that she was about to join a strange and satanic cult.

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